Janet Benestad, director of the Office of Faith Formation and Evangelization for the Archdiocese of Boston speaks at the Stand Up For Religious Freedom rally June 8 on Boston Common. Pilot photo/ George Martell, Pilot Media Group
She invited those at the rally to join the cardinal, Catholics and fellow citizens for a live Town Hall Meeting on religious liberty in Watertown on June 25 at 8:00 p.m. at Catholic TV for simultaneous broadcast on WQOM 1060AM radio "to observe this fourteen days of standing up for religious liberty."
Since it was announced last year, the U.S. bishops have strongly advocated for an expansion of the mandate's exceptionally narrow religious exemption.
Benestad said the mandate with the narrow exemption could force Catholics to redirect charitable services -- traditionally provided unilaterally without respect to ethnic, racial, political or religious beliefs -- to Catholics only.
"That is unacceptable. Both the mandate and the compromise are a violation of the First Amendment protections of religious belief. Catholic institutions and religious institutions would violate their own identity if they refused to serve non-Catholics. We cannot do that," she said.
Local conservative pundit Don Feder also spoke at the rally about his grandfather, Israel Whitman, who came to the United States more than 100 years ago as he fled religious persecution of his Jewish faith.
"He found the streets lined not with gold but with something far more valuable -- human rights. We are here today to confront discrimination and persecution of a different kind," Feder said.
He warned about the dangers of a government overreaching the power of the people and their human rights.
"Remember, my friends, what starts small -- with a mandate -- often ends in repression, bloodshed and terror," he said.
"First morality and religion fall. Then our constitutional republic is replaced by a government that rests on different principles -- principles that my grandfather fled from over a hundred years ago. That's why, ladies and gentlemen, those of us here today aren't just Catholics, Protestants, Jews Evangelicals, Mormons; we are patriots," he said.
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